Celebrating Our Differences: Q and A with Simon Calcavecchia

I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again…My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose. 

They say, “write what you know,” and no one exemplifies this better than Simon Calcavecchia. Simon is a Seattle-area indie author who has used challenging experiences to inspire positive character creation and effective storytelling. In addition to being the author of three books with a fourth on the way, he’s also a motivational speaker. Simon travels to schools around the Pacific Northwest to share his story, his challenges, and his positive message.

We had the pleasure of having a Q and A with Simon this month as we celebrate our differences and look forward to International Day of People with Disabilities. This United Nations (UN) sanctioned day sets the intention:

To promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

UN.org

As we reflect on all that we’re grateful for this month and throughout the coming holiday season, let us also take time to understand how we treat one another, biases we might have, and ways that we can promote positivity and peace in our everyday practice. 

Simon Calcavecchia: Author & Motivational Speaker

Q: Can you give us a little bit about your background and your injury?

A: I played football in high school, but I wasn’t really supported in that and I didn’t stay passionate. This led me to play rugby and I fell in love with it. My coach was from Australia and when our season ended he offered to hook me up with a team in his hometown. I went for it and I loved it. I lived with a bunch of rugby players, visited beautiful beaches, and was training and just living it to the fullest. While I was there, a player gave me advice that I didn’t realize was dangerous, and I applied it to the scrum— the most dangerous part of the game. I broke my neck and my opponent’s shoulder and woke up with c5/6 quadriplegia. I was paralyzed from the chest down. I had numerous surgeries and when they were completed I got some movement back in my arms. I had tons of support from my family, my team, and people I’d met in Australia. 

Q: What did you do once you were done with rehabilitation?

A: When I came home from the hospital I found that I needed purpose. I decided to go to school and graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Arts. I then faced the challenge of finding a career. I worked with agencies who couldn’t even get me an internship and I was very discouraged. I reached out to a counselor. I needed a way to get back to feeling like me again. I began volunteering in my community and with kids in classrooms. My spirit came back, I was full of life and loved my purpose. 

Q: Was that what inspired you to start writing books?

A: I spent a lot of time volunteering with kids in classrooms. I wanted to become a children’s book author and write my own stories. Not once when I was volunteering did I ever come across a book with a character using a wheelchair and I wanted to create one and create change. Then I met Arturo Alvarez, an illustrator, and now one of my best friends, and we committed to making “The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud.” My fourth book called “Monster Truck’n” will be out in January of 2020. I’m also working on a board book and thinking about branching out from Frank and Mustard a bit. 

Q: At Novel Effect, we were so lucky you already had voices for your characters… How do you think voices impact the reading experience and what are the benefits of doing read alouds for you as an author?

A: When I released the books, YouTube was becoming a pretty big deal. Kids really love the books, but they might not have the resources to buy the books. I wanted to share them with kids all over the world and YouTube presents an opportunity to do that without financial barriers. Also, I really thought it would be fun to create voices and become the characters. I had some experience doing audio production and creating content in college. I do the voices with my read alouds when I present to schools. But now that I have three books and lots of characters, it’s difficult to find the voices and bring unique qualities to each character. 

Q: You are a motivational speaker now and you speak at schools. How do you know that your story is making an impact?

A: I go to schools, talk to kids, and share my story. I see the books are making an impact because they’ve opened up conversations that teachers didn’t know how to approach. How do we work on inclusivity in environments? How do kids with differences feel included? I had been a public speaker, and a toastmaster; I love the experience of talking aloud, but what really drives me is the impact I’m making. In my speaking engagements, I show kids how I go about my day-to-day routines. I really give them insight into living life with quadriplegia. The kids feel sad, but they see that I’m passionate and living my life to the fullest. I show them videos of my adventures— flying, driving a monster truck, and a race car. I’m doing more than people do with a fully-abled body and showing that it comes down to a positive mindset when facing these challenges. My favorite part is teaching kids about kindness and inclusion. I think that students have an emotional reaction to my talks. These might not be emotions they’ve experienced before and they empathize with me. This might change their approach to differences.  When I’m done sharing my experience, I finish with a call out— I want to know I have the support that we can impact and make changes. I have the whole school screaming about kindness and inclusion. It’s an incredible feeling to know that they’re feeling it too!

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is on December 3. You can find Simon’s book, “The Adventures of Frank & Mustard: Stuck in the Mud” in your Novel Effect app here.

Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List

Here is a list of our recommended titles to read out loud this year! Packed with fun sound effects and lively music from Novel Effect, these popular books are sure to keep your little one engaged for the entire story, whether they are reading themselves or just listening.

Make a resolution to read aloud more and join in on our pursuit to get every child to love reading in 2019!

#NovelEffectReads2019
Continue reading “Novel Effect’s 2019 Reading List”

Be a Storytime Hero in 2019

Happy New Year Novel Effect-ers!

new year-02
#NovelEffectReads2019

You made it through the holidays – the wonderful meals, the family fun, the late night festivities, and the seemingly non-stop gift giving.  And now it is time to kick off those new year’s resolutions! Continue reading “Be a Storytime Hero in 2019”

5 Things on Our Fall Wish List this Year

What started as a craving for pumpkin spice has now evolved into a full-on love affair with Fall. The weather, the smells, the flavors – it’s the seasonal equivalent of a giant hug. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of this autumnal love fest, so we compiled a list of our must-do Fall activities for this year.

What started as a craving for pumpkin spice has now evolved into a full-on love affair with Fall. The weather, the smells, the flavors – it’s the seasonal equivalent of a giant hug. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of this autumnal love fest, so we compiled a list of our must-do Fall activities for this year.

  1. Plant a Fall Garden

Why do Spring and Summer get to have all the gardening fun? The Fall weather practically requires you be outdoors, and a Fall garden of colorful gourds is a great way to get kids experimenting with new foods. Tomie de Paola’s “Strega Nona’s Harvest” has some helpful gardening tips and is fun to read together after a day in the dirt.

brittney-dowell-635568-unsplash

  1. Apple Picking

Load up the kiddos, hop in the car, and yee-haw to the closest apple orchard. A family road trip always ends up with one or two new stories to add to the family legacy (keep the TVs and video games off for best results). When you finally arrive, everyone can run around through the rows of trees, play with other families also glad to be out of their car, and enjoy some cider (we’ll let you decide how hard that cider needs to be).

  1. Celebrate Science

November 8th (NOV8 – innovate – get it??) is National STEAM Day, set aside each year to inspire kids to explore interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. The internet is full of STEAM activities you can do as a family, but we suggest these and these. We also highly recommend reading “Little Leonardo’s Fascinating World of Technology” with Novel Effect – it combines science, tech, and art!

  1. Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

America’s pastime culminates every Fall as the best-of-the-best battle it out during the World Series. Even if your team didn’t make it to the big showdown, pick a team as a family (or take different sides if competition is more your thing) and watch the games together. Learn the cheers, get into the spirit, and have some fun! If you want a story to go with the big game, we recommend “Casey at the Bat” or the newly added “Baseball Saved Us,” which tells the story of how baseball shaped a young boy’s experience in an internment camp during WWII.

BASEBALLSAVEDUSKENMO-W

  1. Pumpkin Carving

Of course, pumpkin carving, right? Not very imaginative… or is it?!? Dun, dun, dun! You don’t have to go far down the Pinterest rabbit hole to find some impressive ideas! Find some inspiration and challenge yourselves to try something new for Jack this year.

 

This is our wish list this Fall, but we want to know: what’s on yours? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know what your family plans to try this Fall.

Reading, Reading, Reading: Five Ways to Foster the Home/School Connection

Now that school is under way and your children settle into their routines, how can you ensure connections with your kids stay at the forefront? Linking experiences from home to school (for example, reading a story aloud) can establish the connections that children need for success in later literacy learning. Here are some ways you can build literacy bridges to school and home:

Greetings Novel Effectors!

Now that school is under way and your children settle into their routines, how can you ensure connections with your kids stay at the forefront? Linking experiences from home to school (for example, reading a story aloud) can establish the connections that children need for success in later literacy learning. Here are some ways you can build literacy bridges to school and home:

AdobeStock_105727639.jpeg

  1. Know what they’re reading

Many teachers provide a booklist. Do you have it yet? Chances are you’ve seen the books they’re reading in your own library or at home. Build up your library with these titles (or make a weekly habit of checking out titles from the local library!)

  1. Create a literacy rich environment

I know how busy you are, but this checklist has some great and simple guidelines for ensuring you’re giving your child a very important gift. There is one for the classroom as well, so you can see if your child’s teacher has these elements in place to ensure connections between home and school.

  1. Talk about the books

Even if you don’t have a book, you can still talk about it. Search for a youtube video of it – Youtube has thousands (maybe millions) of videos of books being read aloud. Once you’ve watched it yourself or online with your child, connect it to something in the child’s home life.

mother and child daughter with a book and a flashlight before going to bed

  1. Encourage your child to share at school

We all help our children with homework and learning. Use this as an opportunity to connect what you’re reading to them at home with what they are reading or doing at school. And, if you want to share Novel Effect with their classroom as a literacy activity, we thank you and support that 100%!

  1. Start Early

Research shows we should be reading to children as early as six months (and earlier than that won’t hurt). For your littler folks who are not yet in school or daycare here are some ways to build pre-literacy experiences from community outings. This site is aimed at parents of children with disability, but it provides wonderful ideas for children of all abilities.

 

Have fun and keep on reading,

Melody Furze,

Melody_NFX

Chief of Education, Novel Effect